A big studded bear that trudges with a drum and drum stick in his hand... This is Mr. Super Bear! While playing the drum and without any expression on his face, Mr. Bear rescued Maa-kun from a bank robber. One day, Maa-kun found "Mr. Super Bear" and a clown entertaining kids by performing for them. Who is this "Mr. Super Bear"...?
One of the things I love about the Animax Taisho is that the winning screenplays are often imaginative, inventive, and sometimes very odd. A prime example of this is Super Kuma-san, the winner of the first Animax Taisho back in 2002.
Written by Tani Hiromasa, the OVA was directed by Kaizawa Yukio (Digimon Frontier/Tamers, Binbou Shimai Monogatari), and produced by Toei, and featured a surprising number of experienced voice actors among the cast.
The story is about a toy bear called Kuma, who has come to life for some unknown reason. He has taken it upon himself to protect his town from villains, vandals and hoodlums, and
transforms into Super Kuma-san to do this. One day though, the town is protected by something new. Another toy has come to life, and this time it's a doll.
To be honest, this is one of those shows that asks more questions than it answers. It would have been niceto have some explanations about why Kuma and Doll are alive, why the town has so much crime, why the police are so inept that they must rely on toys for protection, etc, etc, but answers are not forthcoming. However, given that this is a single episode OVA and is aimed primarily at children, there is not the time, nor was there any inclination from the start, to develop the story to any degree.
That said, Super Kuma-san is a rather charming little tale, and while there is a very child friendly atmosphere to the show, it isn't drowned in sugary sweetness, but instead tempers events by adding some darker elements. The use of flashbacks serves as a nice, if brief, glimpse into the history of both Kuma and Doll, however it's nowhere near enough to give any real understanding of their characters.
As far as OVAs go, Super Kuma-san looks pretty good for the most part. The characters are generally well designed, if a little on the plain side. The area where the design really does shine though, is in the emotive expression of both Kuma and Doll. Essentially both characters have static features which don't change too much regardless of what they're feeling. It's surprising then, that Kuma is able to express a wide variety of emotions simply by changing the shape of his mouth, while Doll is positively chilling at certain points. Another surprising design aspect is Kuma's "berserk" mode, one of the darker elements I mentioned earlier, and it's nice to see that there was no attempt to shy away from showing Kuma lose his temper.
The show is well animated on the whole. The characters move well for the most part, and the action sequences are well choreographed. That said, certain aspects of the design and animation are very much aimed at children, so there are moments when things seem a little too simplistic.
The music is pretty simplistic throughout the OVA, with most of it being reminiscent of the music heard at circuses and funfairs (including the creepy music box tune). The seiyuu are pretty good for the most part, but older people may find the acting a little too simple, however it should be remembered that this is very much a children's show.
I was surprised though, to find Yamadera Kouichi (Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop), playing the role of Clown (something he manages to do with aplomb by the way).
Given that this is a single episode OVA aimed at kids, it's understandable that there would be very little in the way of character development. That said, the show does make some nods in this direction by providing some brief details about the history of Kuma and Doll. The only other prominent characters are Maa-kun and Clown, however they are simply supporting characters for Kuma, and Doll later on.
I'm quite surprised to admit that I actually quite enjoyed Super Kuma-san, although it has to be said that my 6 year old nephew enjoyed it far more than I did. The show is quirky, and more than a little odd, and while it is very clearly aimed at children, it doesn't do any harm to watch something completely non-offensive from time to time.
That said, the show doesn't really attempt to answer any of it's own questions, however such gripes are very much the realms of teenagers and adults. This is a kids show after all.